What do you think are the differences between drinking (or even not drinking) culture in the US compared to the UK?
N: I think it's tough to summarize the drinking culture in the US briefly because it is just so vast and there are so many different styles of life across even one state, let alone the rest of them! Of course in the UK we are known for our drinking, it's a very binge heavy culture and society and socialising is completely built around it here, pub culture defines most people's lives and it's the bedrock on which things have existed for a really long time... until the last few years where we've started to see a real sea change in what people are looking for in social occasions, experiences and what is in their glass. What I can say about both cultures is that there is an extremity to them, and with that comes, necessary reactions and responses, I believe that's why we have seen such a boom in alcohol free bars, pop ups, bottle shops and products in both the UK and the US. There is more of a demand for an alternative to alcohol now and both sides of the Atlantic are responding well, there is a rapidly expanding community around the no and low movement and long may it continue, the future looks really bright.
How did you get started with Club Soda?
N: A stroke of luck, a manifestation, a gift from somewhere, I'm not sure what exactly to call it but I'm thankful for however it happened. The short version is that I worked in hospitality for a really long time and then I got sober. I then had to figure out what my next steps were if that wasn't managing bars full of alcohol. I have a friend in Bristol which is where I grew up who worked for Lyre's and reposted a job advertisement online for the Club Soda shop and bar project and after reading through the description, I couldn't not apply so took a chance and three weeks later I was in my first team meeting getting ready to embark on this project which is now our Tasting Rooms in the heart of Covent Garden in London!
Tell us your top 3 places to drink non-alc options in the US
N: HiLot in the East Village in New York, Ben Hopkins is doing some damn fine work with some AF treats there. Dream House Lounge in New Orleans has some very special drinks going on, David Wallace is doing great things around mental health, spirituality and what he's calling his 'conscious cocktails', very cool! I'm also gonna shout out Minus Moonshine in Brooklyn, New York
, although more of a bottle shop, there's always bits and pieces to sample there and their range is superb, such amazing energy in that place, cannot recommend enough!
We were delighted to have our co-founder Dash on your podcast, tell us more about Beyond Booze.
N: Beyond Booze
is a podcast series on the Club Soda podcast that features myself and guests who are drink makers, founders, bartenders, influencers, movers and shakers in the space. It's conversations between us about their history, how they got into the space, the no and low category and how its developed over the years, the importance of community, fun cocktail ideas, the future of non-alc and so many more things. Dash was an incredible guest and I learned so much being in the room with him, Three Spirit is one of my favourite brands so it was such a pleasure to be able to sit down and hear more about its inception and the journey, what an inspiration!
Are you able to tell us how that sober curiosity started for you, plus the benefits and challenges?
N: I am sober, as I'm writing this I am a few days away from hitting 16 months, long may it continue. The story is long winding but also ultimately not that unique, I spent most of my teens and twenties battling some kind of addiction whether that be drugs, alcohol or some other things that surprised me. I worked in hospitality and music over the years and both lent themselves to a certain way of behaving which had severe impacts on my mental and physical wellbeing, so eventually I was able to stop it all in April 2022. Everyone has different stories and journey's with their sobriety, mine does still involve working on it on a daily basis, its something I do have to make an effort with and remind myself why I'm doing what I'm doing as my addict voice can still be a loud one! The challenges that come with that are self explanatory but ultimately the benefits have far outweighed any of that, the list is huge of the benefits it has brought me. My mental health, decision making and clarity of mind is the best it's been in a really long time, my physical health has improved, I am able to achieve a lot more in my days and my career has gone from strength to strength, so it's safe to say its been the best decision I've made for myself, ever.
Do you have a favourite Three Spirit drink?
N: That IS the tough question isn't it. It honestly does change depending on my mood and what I'm looking for but if I had
to choose one then I'm going to say Livener
. I spent years behind bars doing shots of Tequila and Mezcal so it's been really invigorating to be able to have a couple of Livener's to push through on a long shift these days, it tastes damn good and is so versatile when it comes to cocktails too, the perfect blend of heat, sweet, spice and fruit coming together and a nice little buzz on too.
Finally, is there anything else of yours or any projects you're working on that you'd like to share?
N: Next time you're in London, come visit the Club Soda Tasting Rooms at 39 Drury Lane, I'll make you some delicious AF cocktails (with Three Spirit of course) and introduce you to some more incredible brands that are out there. We're launching our new menu on September 22nd so please come through to check out what we've been cooking up, I am very excited. Beyond Booze NYC special is coming out at the end of this month and season two towards the end of the year as well. I'll also be hosting a panel at Forwards Festival (2nd September) this year in Bristol with special guests David Nutt and Millie Gooch so certainly one not to miss if you're there that weekend!